Kimunya: Tilting towards jail
By Kenya Confidential Legal Affairs Editor, Nairobi – September 29, 2016
Kimunya, accused of abuse of office and land fraud, wanted the case settled out of court saying that residents of Nyandarua had filed a petition at the County Assembly seeking to withdraw the complaint on the parcel of land
Former Finance Minister Amos Kimunya’s corruption case will proceed to a full hearing. This is after the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) declined a proposal by Kimunya to settle the matter out of court.
According to the DPP, an attempt by Kimunya to have the matter settled out of court is meant to derail the hearing and conclusion of the case he is facing. Anti Corruption Magistrate, Felix Kombo, agreed with the prosecution and gave out fresh hearing dates. The matter will be heard on January 23 to 25, 2017.
Kimunya, who is accused of abuse of office and land fraud, wanted the case settled out of court saying that residents of Nyandarua had filed a petition at the County Assembly seeking to withdraw the complaint on the parcel of land.
In the case, the former MP for Kipipiri, Nyandarua, is charged with allocating public land to Midlands Limited, a company associated with him. He is said to have effected the transfer on June 30, 2005 when he served as the Lands Minister. He failed to disclose his interest in the land transaction, court documents state. He has pleaded not guilty against the charge.
Kimunya is charged alongside Lilian Wangiri, a former director of land adjudication and settlement with the Lands Ministry, who also faces breach of trust charge.
Also charged is Junghae Wainaina, who has denied a charge of fraudulent acquisition of public property. They are out on bond and their case will be mentioned on September 29 for further directions.
Last month Kimunya got a temporary reprieve after court proceedings were adjourned to allow for a negotiated settlement in a case he is accused of land fraud.
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The court was told that residents of Nyandarua had filed a petition at the County Assembly seeking to “withdraw the complaint on the parcel of land” that the criminal case against Kimunya stems from. Why residents would go to Nyamdarua County Assembly on a criminal matter before court speaks volumes.
Kimunya failed to disclose his vested interest in the land transaction, court documents state. The anti-corruption court heard that negotiations were under way, that the government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, should withdraw its complaint on the parcel of land, on which a processing factory sits in recognition of the immense value that is carried out therein.”
“Nyandarua County government duly recognises the importance of Midlands as an industry with tremendous importance to the county for agricultural development and economic growth,” lawyer Tom Macharia said.
He asked and was given two months to report back to court the outcome of the negotiation. However, the Director of Public Prosecutions retained the final say on the case given his powers to allow withdrawal of criminal charges. He chose to proceed with corruption charges.
Kimunya is among several former cabinet ministers facing corruption charges, which is a major departure from the blind eye attitude previously given to senior politicians, who enriched themselves, their families and cronies with public funds and assets without any fear of prosecution.
Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission officials dramatically arrested Kimunya, a one-time blue-eyed boy in former President Mwai Kibaki’s government, at Nairobi’s Panafric Hotel in March 2014, shortly after Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko gave the go-ahead for his prosecution.
He was taken to the anti-graft agency offices at Integrity Centre in Nairobi in the early afternoon, cautioned and later charged in court after a weekend sojourn. For Kimunya, who has publicly insisted he wanted to lead a quiet life after losing his Kipipiri parliamentary seat in 2013 General Election, that was a most unwelcome development.
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Tobiko’s directive was Kimunya should be charged alongside Lilian and Wainaina. Kimunya influenced the allocation of 25 acres in Njabini, Nyandarua County, to M/S Midlands Limited, his food processing firm that processes and packages potatoes. The land was part of 75 acres belonging to the Ministry of Agriculture and reserved for a potato seed project.
The anti-graft agency report indicated that the former Kipipiri MP was a director and shareholder in the company at the time of the transaction and did not seek the consent of the relevant ministry. “The DPP is satisfied that there is sufficient evidence and that it is in the public interest to prosecute the said persons,” a statement from the office of the DPP, dated March 14, read in part.
Kimunya had earlier told the Parliamentary Investment Committee investigating the high speed rail from Mombasa to Nairobi and later on to Kampala, Uganda and Kigali in Rwanda, that he was now a private citizen who did not want to be bothered because he had nothing new to offer them.
The session ended in disarray after committee chairman Dujis MP Adan Keynan declared Kimunya a hostile witness following a heated exchange over his role in the multi-billion-shilling project. The former MP had demanded to know why he had been summoned yet he no longer held public office.
The committee was investigating how China Road and Bridge Corporation was selected to construct the railway without competitive bidding. Kimunya served as Transport minister, where he pushed for the withdrawal of 14-seater public service vehicles from major towns in a bid to ease congestion. He has also served in the ministries of Trade and Finance. As finance minister he also faced Parliamentary grilling on controversial De la Rue cash printing deal.
He forced to resign in 2008, after being involved in the controversial sale of Grand Regency Hotel whose name was later changed to Laico Regency Hotel. Parliament, never known to punish colleagues for corruption, later cleared him of any wrong-doing.